Tons of TALISMAN news! New Director + Quint reviews Ehren Kruger's screenplay!!!
Ahoy, squirts. Quint, the currently fuming seaman, here with a review of Ehren Kruger's "adaptation" of Stephen King and Peter Straub's THE TALISMAN. This draft is dated July 13th, 2003 and I know there has been some work done to it since... matter of fact, I've been informed that Kruger has been rewritten by Carlo Bernard and Doug Miro (who have scripted John Dahl's upcoming GHOST SOLDIERS) and that they were brought in to make his drafts "more like the book."
I feel sorry for Bernard and Miro because based on the script I read, they had to rewrite all 145 pages to make it "more like the book."
BUT, before I start digging into Kruger's butcher job, I have a bit of news for you. Ed Zwick has taken over the director's chair, left open by Vadim Perelman. Zwick is best known as the director of flicks like GLORY, LEGENDS OF THE FALL and THE LAST SAMURAI. I saw Ed Zwick on a panel in Santa Barbara (funnily enough it was on the same panel as Vadim Perelman) and he came across as a really cool guy and very respectful of film. I didn't think THE LAST SAMURAI was the best movie ever made, but you can't deny that Zwick knows how to make epic stories with very intimate characters. I'm excited about him taking on the project and I'd be willing to bet he'll take a stab at reworking this script...
It certainly needs it. But, I have to bring up one bit of information... I've heard from a source, who I trust to know and respect the original material, that Kruger's first draft was a beautiful and faithful adaptation of King and Straub's book. There is no evidence left in the July 13th draft to suggest that is the case, but I trust this source... So, before all the TALISMAN freaks out there read the below and see red... don't go raiding Kruger's home just yet. It's possible that either studio interference or even Perelman's script notes could be responsible for the mess I read.
When I started Kruger's script I had come off of reading Richard LaGravenese's '93 draft, which was a disaster. In LaGravenese's draft gone was Speedy Parker, the Talisman itself rested in a storage house and was used to literally "rewrite" the evil out of existence. But you know what? He nailed the Sunlight Home, the wretched hellhole run by the dastardly faux-priest Sunlight Gardner. That's the point in the story where the bad guys finally get some comeuppance, courtesy of Wolf. It's my favorite part of the book and I'd even venture to say that it's one of the best sequences King and Straub have ever written.
The opening of the script gave me some hope. Kruger seems to really understand the character of Jack and shows us a lot of his personality in the hectic move to the lonely Alhambra Hotel. He also really nails Jack's loving, but strained relationship with his mom, an ailing and aging B movie star of the '70s. Shortly after Jack meets Speedy Parker and is given his quest any similarity between the script and the original novel, with the exception of character names, disappear.
Let's start with "The Quest." In the novel, the quest young Jack is put on is to travel from the East Coast to the West Coast to liberate The Talisman from an evil house. He can then use this Talisman to heal his mother and by doing so, will heal The Queen of the Territories. In the book, there are certain people who have "Twinners" which are alternate versions of that person that exist in the Territories. Lily Cavanaugh's "Twinner" is the fair Queen of the Territories. If she dies, the Territories will be overrun by an evil bastard known as Morgan of Orris, who has an equally slimy and evil "Twinner" in Jack's world by the name of Morgan Sloat, ex-partner of Jack's father and Uncle to the boy. And if the Queen dies, so does Lily.
In Kruger's screenplay, Jack STARTS OUT with the Talisman (contained in a guitar case given to the boy by Speedy Parker) and has to carry it to the Queen, who is held captive in a castle on the West Coast. This castle is the property of "The Alchemist," an evil man by the name of Morgan Strong. There is no Morgan Sloat (thus no Richard Sloat, either, for you fans) or Morgan of Orris... just this Morgan Strong who doesn't have half the menace of either of the two characters in the original novel.
In the screenplay, Morgan Strong has figured out a way to travel between worlds and is trying to use this power to woo the Queen, whom he loves. She'll have no part of him and is slowly starving herself to death while held captive by the Alchemist. Oh, and as an added insult to the fans of the book Jack Sawyer's father is revealed to be Morgan Strong... He couldn't sweet talk the Queen, so he traveled between worlds and got the second best thing: Jack's mom.
I know, I know... that change is really stupid and completely unnecessary, but the insanity doesn't stop there.
For a fantasy story, this script sure has very little fantasy involved. Of the 145 pages, I'd say roughly 10 of them takes place in the Territories and most of those happen at the very end of the script during the ridiculous raid on Morgan's castle. That's right, they took out the fantasy realm and set Jack's journey almost 100% in the real world.
That leads me to Wolf, one of King and Straub's most faithful and loveable characters. One, we never see Wolf in the Territories. Not once. Kruger also writes his dialogue as if he were half Autistic and half Mongoloid. It really is upsetting to see Wolf written this way. There are a few moments where Kruger does nail Wolf's temperament, but hardly enough to make it count. It also feels like Kruger took all the bonding of Wolf and Jack out of the story and decided to keep in all the whiney Jack-pissed-at-Wolf stuff instead. I never really bought their friendship in this script and as that's one of the strongest threads in the original book it came as a huge disappointment to me.
How about the bad guy you love to hate... Sunlight Gardner. Gardner appears very, very early on in the story (he tracks down Speedy and snatches him up) and is the constant threat, always two steps behind Jack Sawyer on his journey. I understand the need to give Jack's quest a sense of urgency, but they turn Sunlight Gardner into more of an evil detective than the quietly malevolent threat that the character needs to be. Gardner is threatening in the way he manipulates the people around him, not because he's plowing through cornfields in a limo with his two bumbling henchmen...
Oh, yes... The bumbling henchmen... Sissy and Roy are their names, but they're just creatures wearing human masks. So much of their stuff isn't played threateningly, like the Oately Tunnel sequence is in the book, but rather silly. They are fishes out of water and constantly make American pop culture mistakes... Terrible!
There's so much that doesn't work... the train sequence with Wolf's transformation, the "hypno-ring," the rescue of the Queen, the revelation of who Jack's father is... And you know why it doesn't work? Because it shares absolutely no relation whatsoever to the book. Are screenwriter's egos so fragile that they can't be faithful to the original material, even just a little bit? No matter what your opinion of the LOTR films are, you have to admire how Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and the Queen of the Geeks pulled the film out of the novels. What was added not only aided in telling the story, but also stayed true to character and tone. What was changed was necessary to a successful film version. Not so with this abortion.
So, now THE TALISMAN has a new director. I must plead with Mr. Zwick... This draft may not be the newest draft (I have my feelers out for the newest draft, but feel free to drop me an email if want to share), but if this is the course that the film version is traveling, it needs to be stopped. I don't ask for much. Stay true to the tone and structure of the book. You can tell this script is written by someone who knows the art of screenwriting, but if you're not going to stay true to the novel, then there is no point in making this movie.
This plea doesn't just go out to Ed Zwick, but also to Mr. Spielberg, Mr. Katzenberg and Mr. Gefen. I know Spielberg loved the book because he bought the rights to it back in the '80s. Mr. Spielberg, remember why you felt you had to buy up the rights in the first place. Don't settle for anything less than a great adaptation. It'll keep asshole fans like me from ranting and raving. There's a classic film for everyone in the family to be made from this book. Don't settle for OK.
And for the love of god and everything that is holy, put the Sunlight Home back in and make it as bloody as PG-13 will allow!
That's it from me, squirts. I could blow off a little more steam about this script, but I think I've made my point. Plus, this most certainly won't be the shooting draft. Hopefully I'll be able to come back in the following weeks and alleviate your fears about this adaptation. I want for nothing more. Please leave talkbacks below if, like me, you feel strongly about not butchering this book. Let 'em know how much this story means to you. It can only help.
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May 9, 2004, 5:05 a.m. CST
by Jon E Cin
May 9, 2004, 5:32 a.m. CST
What parents want their kid named "Ehren Kruger", anyway? No wonder he's such an imbecile.
May 9, 2004, 7:28 a.m. CST
I really don't understand why Kruger felt the need to change pretty much everything that made the novel work. This is not a remake he's writing here (like he did with THE RING and THE RING 2) but an adaptation of a popular novel with a huge fanbase that will not forgive him for writing this script or Dreamworks for making a movie based on it. Remakes may profit from new ideas and changes from the source material but adaptations of novels should first and foremost be judged by how faithful they are to the source, how well they managed to transfer a story from one medium to the other. In my opinion Dreamworks should not ask for rewrites of Kruger's script but toss it out completely and hire someone who knows how to adapt Stephen King books. Like Frank Darabont for example, the guy who wrote the single best King adaptation to date, THE GREEN MILE.
May 9, 2004, 7:36 a.m. CST
... that screenplay sounds like, in the words of Forrest Gump, "a bunch of shit" (did he ever say those words in the movie? No? Exactly... adapt the fucking thing, no need for this "lets-go-and-change-it" shite... )
May 9, 2004, 7:56 a.m. CST
Say it ain't so Steve!
May 9, 2004, 8:22 a.m. CST
Blasphemy! Sacrilege! I have loved this book since the early 80's, and remeber reading it and envisioning the wonderful movie it would make all the way through (especially the parts with Wolf!). To read this just makes me feel betrayed. I've always thought this would make a better cable mini-series (HBO maybe); hopefully someone will get a clue and do this right. If they can, let 'em take a stab at Black House and the Gunslinger too!
May 9, 2004, 8:37 a.m. CST
Who really truly cares about this book anymore? Is it even in print?
May 9, 2004, 9:02 a.m. CST
In the words of the Bard, "Methinks thou dost protest too much...". Can someone tell me when excellent adaptations of Stephen King novels became the norm? Sorry folks, but from Quint's review, this sounds like a typical Hollywood bastardization of a King classic. I mean honestly, with only a few exceptions, there HASN'T been a good adaptation of a King novel. Going all the way back to the 1976 version of "Carrie" (which I personally liked a lot until I read the book), Hollywood just doesn't GET Stephen King. That is, unless it's a situation where King is the driving force behind the film like, for instance, 1997's version of "The Shining" was truer to the book than Kubrick's 1980 version although that one is considered more the fan favorite. Yes, Frank Darabount GETS Stephen King, he understands the subtle nuances that King puts in his characters. And, as a result, his adapations have been successful. Ray Gideon also understood it with his adaptation of "The Body". But, beyond those, the pickings become pretty sparse and yes, I am also taking into consideration Cronenberg's "Dead Zone". Well, anyway, that's how a King fan from the last three decades feels. I've learned not to expect much from Hollywood when it comes to adaptations. Most of the time they'll screw it up so it's better to expect that than to get my hopes up. I'm sure I've given you TBers enough fodder for flaming now, so I'm signing off.
May 9, 2004, 9:59 a.m. CST
Kubrick, Carpenter and Cronenberg all "bastardized" King to great effect. Who the hell thinks that "faithfulness" is some guarantee of quality anyway? *** Okay book, but it suffered heavily from King's patented rites-of-passage-emotional-transition-tragedy-of-lost-youth nonsense that made "It" so annoying...put that on the screen and you have an embarrassing celluloid mastrubation fest a la "Hook", guaranteed...
May 9, 2004, 10:41 a.m. CST
by Osmosis Jones
If this is going to be a PG-13, then it will be worthless, no matter what the final screenplay is like. Ed Zwick is a good, visually gifted filmmaker, but you can't polish a turd of a screenplay. Just junk this project and get Frank Darabont cracking on The Mist!
May 9, 2004, 11:13 a.m. CST
and erase the awfulness that is Dreamcatcher from my memory. The book is classic (LeftNut you illiterate prick)and anyone who has read it and enjoyed it knows this could be an awsome movie. Oh and as far as a PG-13 rating, The Ring had that rating and I think that movie had perfect atmosphere which would work for Talisman.
May 9, 2004, 1:17 p.m. CST
If they don't honor the source material, let's just agree not see the damn thing, and give it bad word-of-mouth. C'mon, we own these Hollywood pricks and pussies. We have the almighty 8 bucks that they want. Let's not give it to them unless they give us what we want. P.S. I would love Frank Darabont to get his hands on this thing.
May 9, 2004, 1:21 p.m. CST
by Randall Flagg
I've lost all hope for this for now, so I'm not going to comment on anything Quint mentioned. If it's good, hooray, but if it's not at least I didn't have my hopes up. I have little to no faith in anything Spielberg has his finger in these days (CMIYC notwithstanding; The Terminal looks like a giant piece of shit) Osmond / Gardener - George Clooney I've never seen him do anything to show that he can pull off the malice needed for this role, except for maybe Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, but he definitely has the right kind of "Sunlight" charisma. I could definitely see Clooney convincing young boys to confess non-existent sins Morgan Sloat / Of Orris - Kevin Spacey, Willem Defoe, or John Malkovich I always pictured both Morgans as bigger than life, so maybe one of these guys could pack on a few pounds. In the book it says that the two Morgans only bore a passing resemblance to each other, so maybe one of these guys could play Sloat and someone else could play Orris. Lily / Laura - Laura Dern No explanation needed, she's perfect Speedy Parker / Parkus - Morgan Freeman Again, no explanation needed (and he's already got two King adaptations under his belt) Wolf - This one is tough. I always thought that Wolf & Tom Cullen were spirit brothers, but unfortunately Bill Faggerbakke is far too old to play Wolf now. For some reason, I'm going to say James Franco. Picture him all hairy in overalls; I think it might work. Smokey Updike - Robert Patrick Jack - I hate to say it, but Haley Joel Osment is the guy to play Jack, at least right now. Check out Secondhand Lions; Haley is definitely "Tall for his age" and he's still got the awkward teenage voice changing going on. That, and we know he can act. Other than that, Frankie Muniz might also be an interesting Jack Richard Sloat - Another tough one. I'm thinking Jake Gylenhall (sp) , though he's a bit too old. I re-read The Talisman about 3 years ago and I was picturing Elijah Wood as Richard the whole time, but he's too old now as well. Now that I think about it, Topher Grace could probably pull Richard off. Take his prep-school persona from Traffic and you're halfway there. Reuel Gardener / Whatever his Twinner's name was - Danny Masteron Did I forget anyone important? Don't think so...
May 9, 2004, 3:57 p.m. CST
by Bill Maher
They should also make a Warrior Knights movie. That game was cool as hell, too!
May 9, 2004, 6:15 p.m. CST
Yeah, BurnHollywood, you're right, why should Hollywood stay faithful the source material when it comes to adapting literary works? I'll attempt to tell you why. First, Stephen King has over 300 million books in print. Now, I don't know what YOU do for a living, but by my calculations, that means he made one heck of a lot more than I did last year. But popular opinion may not be the only motivator for Hollywood. It could also be the fact that most of his stories are just pretty damn entertaining. Even the ones that don't deal with the supernatural, like "The Body" and "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption" were extremely entertaining; leading me to invite you to find a copy and read it rather than rely on the film version. As far as your comments about "IT", I heartily disagree. With the exception that the manuscript should have been edited down a few hundred pages (I've felt for a while now that due to his popularity, his editors are afraid to cut his manuscripts too much and that is the reason he hasn't had a truly great book like he did in his earlier days), I felt this story was King doing what King does best. Cronenberg, Carpenter, and Kubrick did not make the stories that appeared in the Stephen King novels, they felt they could improve on the story and attempted to do so. King himself was unnerved by Kubrick's unsolicited changes to "The Shining" to the point where he nearly abandoned the project. (Check out his comments in "Danse Macabre", it's hilarious) Yes, GayMovieGuy, there are some books that just don't translate to the screen. I felt "The Stand" was one such novel. I thought that the only way to do it justice was to make it a four or five part mini-series on cable. The fact that it appeared on commercial television only contributed to it's failure as an adaptation. I agree with you that King's world is too personal to translate. It's that personal touch that makes him such a great writer. But, at times, as you say, if a good actor and director can understand their character and put into actions what is on the written page, it works (I point to Tom Hanks' Paul Edgecombe in "The Green Mile" as an example; Hanks' Edgecombe worked because Hanks understood the character and what was going on in his mind and body during the course of the story). And while I also agree that the Spielberg treatment of "The Talisman" would be a disaster; I am hard pressed to come up with a director working today who could present a story as complex as "The Talisman" is. Flame on!
May 9, 2004, 6:33 p.m. CST
by Virtual Satyr
Sucks in a major way.
May 9, 2004, 10:23 p.m. CST
I outright refuse to watch an adaptation of 'The Talisman' based on that screenplay. I would rather watch my own funeral. Who the hell does Kruger think he is? How dare he?
May 10, 2004, 1:13 a.m. CST
That script sounds TERRIBLE! What the hell is wrong with people?
May 10, 2004, 3:27 a.m. CST
If there's only ten or so minutes of Jack in the Territories, doesn't that officially cancel out any adaptation status that it hoped to have? I mean, why even keep any of the characters and story at that point? That's a whole new project (and they can call it "The Magic Guitar Case").
May 10, 2004, 5:58 a.m. CST
by Big E
Yeah, sure, I HAVE to respect Peter Jackson and his buddies' work on adapting LOTR? Please. Soooo... Faramir being a jerk for absolutely no reason, Denethor being turned into an incompetent buffoon, Frodo giving up confidence in Sam's friendship, Saruman disappearing from the third movie entirely... uh-huh, all these changes were "necessary" and "stayed true to character and tone". Ugh. With the exception of FOTR, hopefully within a few years fanboys will finally realize how wretched an abomination PJ's Tolkien adaptations were.
May 10, 2004, 8:41 a.m. CST
by Orange Crush
..even before I heard of the screenplay, and I remember thinking that it would play great on the screen. Unfortunately, assuming they're trying to make it complete and good, you'd have to either make a 4 hour movie, or else turn it into a limited run tv series (notice I didn't say 4 night mini-series). And you'd have to show it at the back end of Prime Time viewing, just so people can see Wolf turning into an engine of destruction at the boys' home.
May 10, 2004, 9:30 p.m. CST
Wolf-boy's antics are the only thing I remember from the book. Leave it to Hollywood to delete the best shit outta this story.
May 11, 2004, 12:37 a.m. CST
NEVER HARM THE HEEEEEEEEEEERD!!! I hope that Wolf sucks the life blood out of your feculent pimple covered asses. You are definitely the stuff that fills graves.
May 11, 2004, 1:34 a.m. CST
by Jimmy Jazz
I'll give you Saruman (and the wretched treatment of the Ents) but I think Faramir was an improvement on the Books. Better a "jerk" than Dudley Do-Right of the Mounties. The book Faramir was pure cardboard. He was pure archtype and his behaivior was completely contridctory to what we knew of this all-powerful, corrupting ring. A two dimensional cutout with no nuance or humanity. He was oh so perfect that he could withstand the power of the ring. Then why didn't HE take it, if he was so omnipotent? Ridiculous. Not to mention dirt dull. The conflicted, ambiguous Faramir was a far more compelling, human character. Jackson's adaptation wasn't perfect, but I do think they were more than worthwhile. This ain't holy writ, people. There was good and bad in Jackson's decisions, but I think that he was pretty damned faithful compared to what might have been. The good far outweighed the bad. Anything else is just fanboy bitching. As for The Talisman, I can't comment having never read it. I do LOVE the Dark TOwer series, though.
May 11, 2004, 12:39 p.m. CST
by Travellin Jack
The Talisman is my all-time favorite book, and I'm so afraid they'll completely ruin the characters and stories because they don't think it'll work. If they needed to change as much as they did in the script you read, why do it at all?? I'm glad you're on our side, Quint! Be as persuasive as you can for all fans of this book.
July 1, 2004, 9:15 p.m. CST
It would be nice to see a film made into a book, that is...if it follows the book as much as possible. It is not fair to the readers to see such a good book turned in to such a bad movie. In my opinion...follow King and Straub's novel completely. I don't think it'd be that hard, and it would make a lot of people happy, which means they'd make more money off of fans going to the theatre to see it. Remember this: If you please the fans, the fans will please you.
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